Is your brand positioned in consumers’ minds against competitors in a meaningful way? Today, too many brand strategies lack strategic differentiation. Instead, they fall back on traditional differentiators like price points, product features, and customer service. Brands that rely on such ho-hum differentiators lose in the long run for three reasons:
- Any brand can undercut your pricing at any time
- A newer, shinier product is just around the corner
- Every brand claims to have fantastic customer service, but few deliver. Consumers understand this and ignore these claims
Such boring differentiation relegates these brands to the position of ‘ordinary’ or even worse — ‘homogeneous.’
The proof Is in the Numbers
Market research firm Kantar Millward Brown provides evidence for the lack of differentiation among brands today. in its BrandZ database. BrandZ contains information on more than 6,000 brands collected over 10 years from category buyers around the world and notes that “on average, the proportion of people willing to endorse any brand as ‘different from other brands of (a specific category)’ is low.”
What’s even more disturbing is what they found for brands that consumers consider “acceptable”: “Among those that consider a brand acceptable, an average of 18 percent agreed that it was different from others.” So even for brands that are considered to be relevant, fewer than one in five consumers see them as differentiated.
Differentiation – meaningful, relevant differentiation – in today's crowded market is one of the hardest challenges companies face.
What Sets Your Brand Apart?
Ultimately, brand differentiation is about creating value with a competitive advantage. A question often asked of our brand consultants is, “Where do we find our competitive differentiation?” Unfortunately, brand differentiation isn’t something you find. It’s something you must create. It’s about clear decisions and consistent actions.
Below are five essential themes to establishing (or re-establishing) differentiation, which I reference consistently and in greater detail throughout my book, The Indispensable Brand. Collectively, they are what enable brands to become indispensable to consumers.
- Identify a Compelling Positioning
Every brand needs to have a positioning that is meaningful, compelling, unique, and credible to not only customers, but to any stakeholder interacting with the brand. Brand positioning is the foundation of any brand strategy. Without a differentiated positioning, brands have little to no hope of being differentiated in the marketplace.
- Craft a Brand-Inspired Experience
Crafting a brand-inspired experience is about touchpoints and a customer journey that are consistent with the brand positioning. Companies should seek to identify the optimal experience for customers that is inspired by—and consistent with—the brand positioning. This goes a long way toward ensuring brands achieve meaningful distinction within their respective categories.
- Personalize the Offer
If delivering a brand-inspired customer experience is essential to achieving brand differentiation, personalization is one of the best ways to ensure an experience is distinctive and memorable. Tools and methodologies, such as customer relationship management (CRM), marketing automation, retargeting, social media, and more, can be used to make customers feel as though they are more than just a statistic or personal identification number.
- Foster a Brand-Relevant Relationship
- Push Boundaries on Growth
While there is a meaningful role for line extensions, it is breakthrough innovation that elevates and distinguishes brands from one another. However, many owners of brand strategy struggle with how far they can (and should) stretch their brand’s bounds of extendibility. Play it too safe and the likely result will be close-in, boring line extensions that are short-lived in the marketplace. Stray too far from the brand’s core positioning and you risk diluting—or even irreversibly damaging—a brand’s valuable equity.
A differentiated approach brand strategy is more critical now than ever before. In a world where everything seems standard and predictably packaged, and every brand follows suit, our brand strategy consultants are experienced in helping companies navigate the ‘sea of sameness’ and avoid homogeneity.